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MS Targets Google With Another Smear Campaign 513

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
walterbyrd writes with news that Microsoft's PR department has started a campaign to convince Gmail users that Google reads your personal emails, referring to Google's automated method of scanning emails for keywords to generate supposedly relevant advertising. "The gist of the scare campaign is that Google is a scary, scary company that reads your private emails in order to send you targeted ads. 'Even if you don't use Gmail, if you send email to someone who does, Google goes through those emails to generate advertising revenue too,' Microsoft warns in material sent to reporters. Oh, and Microsoft points out that six class-action lawsuits have been filed against Google over this issue, and asks people to sign a petition 'to tell Google to stop going through your personal email messages.'"
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MS Targets Google With Another Smear Campaign

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  • They had the tagline of 'Don't get scroogled' then directed the viewer to go to outlook.com The production values were atrocious.
    • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:35PM (#42833403) Homepage
      It's supposed to look that way. Some people will think it's more legitimate if it doesn't look like a big money production. Like it's coming from the little guy and not a competing mega corporation.
  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Friday February 08, 2013 @11:59AM (#42832865)

    Is it a "Smear Campaign" if it's true?

    Pretty "slanted" summary, but I guess this is Slashdot and the story is about Microsoft.

    Now, who's more evil? Google or Microsoft? Hard to tell around here sometimes...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by somersault (912633)

      I'd rather non-invasive and targeted ads, than the annoying (and presumably irrelevant if MS aren't being hypocritical here) animated ones that you got on MSN, and now get on Skype.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Why would you want ads when reading your email at all? This seems to be horrible mental gymnastics to try to maintain "Google good!" fanboism.

        • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:23PM (#42833229)

          Yeah, it's funny how people will apparently put thought into the question "given the choice, would you rather we cut off your arm or cut off your leg?" without considering that perhaps a third option is infinitely preferable.

        • Well, as I run adblock I don't actually get any anywhere - I'm just saying that Google are IMO much better than MS when it comes to advertising.

        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:41PM (#42833495)

          Why would you want ads when reading your email at all?

          I don't want, them, but I am willing to accept them because I am an adult, and I know that there is no Santa Claus. Corporations don't provide services out of the goodness of their heart. The ads pay for the "free" email, and also help pay for Google's research into autonomous vehicles, improved search technology, etc. So I accept them, occasionally click on them, and sometimes even buy something.

          This seems to be horrible mental gymnastics to try to maintain "Google good!" fanboism.

          Expecting something for nothing is being childish. Grow up.

          • Corporations don't provide services out of the goodness of their heart. The ads pay for the "free" email, and also help pay for Google's research into autonomous vehicles, improved search technology, etc. So I accept them, occasionally click on them, and sometimes even buy something.
            Expecting something for nothing is being childish. Grow up.

            No one said anything about Google not being able to use advertising to offset the cost of providing a free service. What the grown ups are talking about is Google's ne

        • by Imagix (695350) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:46PM (#42833591)
          I don't get any of the ads when reading my email. Oh, wait. Right. We have the paid version of Google Apps. You want free email? With all of the infrastructure and services around it. Free. Google has to pay the bills somehow. So ad-supported for the free cases, or you can subscribe and turn off the ads.
        • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:56PM (#42833735) Homepage Journal

          You can pay for paid Google services that don't include ads.

          http://www.google.com/intl/en/enterprise/apps/business/ [google.com]

          • A little misdirection? The issue wasn't the advertising itself but Google reading/scanning personal email to create targeted ads.

            Does Google still scan your email for keywords even though they may not immediately show you advertising? Just because they don't show you the ads while reading email doesn't mean they can't use the information gathered to target the ads you view while browsing.

        • Why would you want ads when reading your email at all? This seems to be horrible mental gymnastics to try to maintain "Google good!" fanboism.

          There's this fancy thing called money, and you might have heard of the saying going something about "no free lunch.." You see, the service provider must be able to generate revenue one way or another, and that's either going to be an e-mail service you have to pay for, or that's being paid for by ads. If you can point towards an e-mail service with as good uptime and accessibility as GMail and one which doesn't require payments nor shows any ads then go ahead!

        • by daem0n1x (748565)

          I don't see any ads on the web. Ever.

          Noscript + Adblock. My brain is grateful.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        I'd rather non-invasive and targeted ads

        I wouldn't. Seriously. Say your wife has a chat while you're reading your email and the ads are full of requests from hot teenage cam girls to get jiggy with them, it's much easier if you can just call it general spam.

    • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:13PM (#42833063)

      Now, who's more evil? Google or Microsoft?

      Apple

    • by Guest Blogger (2836413) <`eb.reggolbtseug' `ta' `mot'> on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:13PM (#42833069)

      Is it a "Smear Campaign" if it's true?

      That's a big "if." In this case it isn't true: "Reading" implies a "person reading your email." Google parses email to place ads. But so what? So does Microsoft and every other Email provider on earth. They may be parsing it for a different reason, but they are doing the exact same thing. If parsing is "reading" then you'd have a point. But it isn't, so you don't. Parsing != to Reading. Or, to put it another way: If Google is "reading your email" at Gmail so is Microsoft at Office 365 Online, because all spam protection services parse email and microsoft advertises their Office 365 service as including excellent "Microsoft Forefront" security.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday February 08, 2013 @01:05PM (#42833849)

        My email providers don't. They don't because I pay them a small fee for the service.

        "Read" doesn't imply a person. It's quite clear in the summary what is meant. MS is certainly being hypocritical, but that doesn't mean Google is a good guy.

        • My email providers don't.

          Really? Are you aware that SMTP transactions are, at heart, a parsing of your message? That an automated program is parsing through the message to figure out where the headers end and the body begins? To do this they must parse the message.

          So if they're not parsing your email, how is it being delivered? Osmosis? Telepathy? Carrier pigeon?

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:14PM (#42833079) Journal

      Is it a "Smear Campaign" if it's true?

      Well, it's not entirely true. I think most people consider the definition of reading to mean "looked" at [wiktionary.org] and that it is implicitly a human that is reading your e-mail in this case. The eyes superimposed in the first video imply this. What's actually happening is that your e-mail is being loaded into memory and parsed to build an index associated with some key that is associated with you and that is being stored. This data is then used to serve targeted ads. Do you really think that a person is involved at any point so far? Do you really think there's a Google employee looking over raw table data and rubbing one out when he sees that "ky jelly" is associated with user 57234765235 at a rate of 0.0054% of the time with a high precision value? Really? Show me a mail service provider that neither loads your e-mail into memory (alias "reads" it) nor stores it in a database and I'll show you extraterrestrial beings.

      Pretty "slanted" summary, but I guess this is Slashdot and the story is about Microsoft.

      Really? Where are Google's commercials of equal proportions? I guarantee you they would make for a story just like this.

      Now, who's more evil? Google or Microsoft? Hard to tell around here sometimes...

      Just because one evil is smearing another evil of less, equal or greater proportions doesn't make it not a smear campaign! This is exactly what it is! Disingenuous advertising meant to unduly spread uncertainty and deceit! How does Microsoft detect spam? The same damn way!

    • by leuk_he (194174) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:15PM (#42833091) Homepage Journal

      MS reads everything on your sky-net drive. Supposenly to their fair use rules. However if there is something bad on them you loose your account. (even if that that data is never shared)

      Now who is evil....

    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:17PM (#42833127) Homepage Journal

      Is it a "Smear Campaign" if it's true?

      It can be if it presents something in a negative light that's technically true on one level, but not in the sense that readers will think.

      The way the campaign will be interpreted is that your privacy is being breached by the people of Google who are reading (not automatically processing) your emails. The reality is that an algorithm is used by a non-sentient computer to determine relevent ads to show you.

      I, in common with most people I guess, really don't give two hoots about the latter. Indeed, as I've said before, if ads are going to be foisted on me, I'd rather see ads for Android phones and S&M equipment than for women's shoes and motorcycle insurance. And I care about how Google determines the former are more suited than the latter and the privacy controls it implements to prevent such data falling into the wrong hands, not the fact that Google figures it out in the first place.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Pretty much any free email service can and should be assumed to read emails. Most of it is going to be automated scanning for ads or other data mining, but there is no presumption that your email is private. Fortunately most of us are not important enough to actually read by a human, but that does not mean so bored grunt is not going to randomly read email. I am sure that there are policies to discourage this, but whether there is actually any consequences we really don't know. We know the terms of serv
    • It IS a smear campaign. Tech Crunch and Read Write are trying to smear Microsoft for pointing out the truth.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      yeah? Let me know how that fairsearch campaign is working out for Microsoft. You know, google is evil blah blah.

      Also remind me how people respond to hotmail selling your information to anyone and everyone, including signing you up for spam mail. While google does do advertising, they don't sign you up for product spam.

    • by Shagg (99693) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:41PM (#42833503)

      Do you think automated parsing of an email to target ads is "reading your private emails"? If so, do you also think that a spam filter running on the mail server "reads your private emails"?

    • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:52PM (#42833693) Homepage Journal

      Microsoft suggests that Google employees are actively reading your mail, which is not true.

      Software sifts through the mail to automate ads based upon context. No one at Google is actually looking at your private data.

      Microsoft's Outlook.com has contextual ads as well. Telling people that Outlook is somehow better than Gmail in this regard is nothing short of a lie.

      It should also be noted that Google has fought governments to protect private data from their users. But Microsoft handed over IP addresses tied to search terms to the government without a warrant. They have a patent on how to best sell your private data to third parties via auction. Microsoft's track record on privacy is pretty poor for them to start throwing stones.

    • by silviuc (676999)
      MS reads your mail to check for spam, phishing content. Oh it's automated you say and no personal info is stored anywhere? Same goes for Google. I wish MS would spend money on research and development and less on you shills.
  • Where's the lie? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hessian (467078) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:00PM (#42832879) Homepage Journal

    Google does scan your emails for keywords. That information may be stored or revealed in any number of ways.

    What I'd like from MSFT: a guarantee (legal contract) that MSFT will not do the same on the new Outlook.com.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:05PM (#42832943) Journal

      Google does scan your emails for keywords. That information may be stored or revealed in any number of ways.

      I think it's more than a bit disingenuous because the video has this person's eyes superimposed over your e-mail while mischievous music plays in the background. We all know that it's not a person reading the e-mails, it's software doing latent semantic indexing or some such algorithm.

      They might not be lying but they are deceiving. Tell me how my Hotmail knows how to classify incoming e-mails as spam again? OH! You're running a Bayesian classification algorithm and building word statistics out of my e-mail?! They're reading my e-mails! Cue judging eyeballs over my e-mail with corny music.

      Note: I'm not defending Google but I'm pretty sure that some type of software runs some sort of algorithm on your e-mails if you go through any reputable major e-mail provider. Hell, my debian postfix server is attached to a bunch of algorithmic open source programs to do just that!

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        The big difference between scanning for spam and scanning to place ads is that scanning for spam benefits me, and scanning for ads is for Google's benefit.

        • by MDMurphy (208495)

          Scanning for ads pays for the service. Ad-Supported. Scanning for ads means you get an email service, for free. Spam filtering, for free. You get multi-gigabytes of storage, for free. So how in the heck can any Gmail user say it benefits Google and not them also?

          It's legitimate for a non Gmail user to say that having their mail scanned isn't isn't worth the value of the email service. If you do have Gmail, you made the deal and you can leave any time if not happy with what you perceive as value you

          • by bws111 (1216812)

            Well, I am not a gmail user for precisely this reason.

            Also, Google is not scanning for ads in order to provide you with free email service, they are providing free email service in order to be able to show you ads. The 'free email' is just a cost of doing business - the selling of ads is worth much more than that expense.

      • I think it's more than a bit disingenuous because the video has this person's eyes superimposed over your e-mail while mischievous music plays in the background. We all know that it's not a person reading the e-mails, it's software doing latent semantic indexing or some such algorithm.

        Do you really believe that Google NEVER assigns a human set of eyes to review emails - even when they're trying to better tune their ad-targeting algorithms?

      • I mostly agree with you but I'd imagine when tuning their algorithms, ie all the time, they have to look at individual emails and see if a manual person would come to the same conclusion that their bot does. They might just test it with their own corporate mail, or have some sort of anonymizing layer that processes the messages first but at some level any mail service will have a IT guy looking at actual messages occasionally. When you are running a separate business process off of the mail you have more re

    • by rs1n (1867908)

      Google does scan your emails for keywords. That information may be stored or revealed in any number of ways.

      What I'd like from MSFT: a guarantee (legal contract) that MSFT will not do the same on the new Outlook.com.

      The funny thing is, MSFT seems to be guilty of the same. Check out: http://investigativerep.blogspot.com/2013/02/microsoft-bing-botched-runs-google.html [blogspot.com]

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      What I'd like from MSFT: a guarantee (legal contract) that MSFT will not do the same on the new Outlook.com.

      What I'd like from GOOG: a guarantee (legal contract) that GOOG will continue to read my email to improve the spam filtering I so greatly enjoy, and (statistically) improve advertising revenue so I can get that spam-filtering email service free of charge.

    • Outlook.com is pretty slick too. For all the gmail users out there worth getting a burner account just to give it a try. I still use gmail as my primary and outlook as my burner but for better or worse MS did a great job giving the Win 8 look and feel to a webmail solution.

      It is a matter of business model I think: MS makes money by selling software. Google makes money by selling ads. Both will do whatever steers you towards their profit centres: Google is much more heavily benefited by having detailed info

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:01PM (#42832893)
    Simple --- sign up with Microsoft's email service so that Microsoft can rummage through your emails instead of google.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:06PM (#42832957) Homepage

    If I did, though, I would of course assume that everything sent via those services was pretty much public (not that anyone would care). But then, unencrypted email is never confidential anyway.

  • No kiddin' (Score:2, Interesting)

    by war4peace (1628283)

    Whenever I use an e-mail service I don't fully own, I assume someone else will eventually read my messages. Frankly, nothing I send out is sensitive or important, or something that can't indirectly be obtained through third party sources.
    Maybe I'm weird, but I listen to my gut feeling that tells me Google is more trustworthy than Microsoft.
    So. My work e-mail can be read by my employer (I know that for a fact) and is automatically scanned for sensitive words, especially if I send e-mails to external addresse

    • by alphatel (1450715) *
      There's an implied trust with your own domain and email service, but people who have their domains forwarded to gmail accounts aren't quite as transparent. So if some business thinks "hey this is secure because it's to joe@xyzcompany.com" they would have no clue that it's a free account hosted by google, which is scanning the content via gmail. So any implied trust of one email service or another is absolutely bunk at this point for the end user. Only a tech would be able to decipher whether you have a real
    • by Inda (580031)
      Yep, none of it matters.

      Between this PC and Google's servers, there sit 11 other 'computers'. The first 6 belong to my ISP. The last 5 Google.

      That's 11 I have no control over.

      Read away, my anonymous computers, read away.
      • by bmo (77928)

        Between this PC and Google's servers, there sit 11 other 'computers'. The first 6 belong to my ISP. The last 5 Google.

        And from there, to other destinations, there may be 20 more hops, all of which you don't control, in other countries where the laws aren't the same as the one you're in.

        An email is a postcard. Unless you encrypt the contents, anyone along the way can read it. It used to be impressed upon users that this was the case, and my copy of "Navigating the Internet" from 1994 went through great le

  • by dgharmon (2564621) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:08PM (#42832991) Homepage
    "Microsoft's PR department has started a campaign to convince Gmail users that Google reads your personal emails, referring to Google's automated method of scanning emails for keywords to generate supposedly relevant advertising".

    Exactly the same way that Windows Live Hotmail does it ...

    "We use your information to inform you of other products or services offered by Microsoft and its affiliates, and to send you relevant survey invitations related to Microsoft services." link [microsoft.com]
    • That's basically it, isn't it? A campaign of FUD intended to scare users away from Gmail, hopefully to sign up with their service instead. Microsoft isn't above monetizing their users either - maybe they just hope it's not as obvious?
  • by F34nor (321515) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:12PM (#42833059)

    I have recently seen both quotes + and - ignored by google. Seriously WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? Google google cheat sheet. If their own operators are no longer working the end is definitely fucking neigh for google as my search engine. I was deeply annoyed when this was happening in froogle (sic) but when MBA bullshit propagates into the search window I am looking else where.

    So does anyone have any other options?

    Is there a website that tracks google misbehaving?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wytten (163159)

      (It has already been pointed out that Google moved the old behavior into what they call "Verbatim search", found under "Search tools")
      I agree with your sentiment--IMHO this is telling of changes within Google. Geeks drove Google to the top of the search engine precisely
      because of the ability to locate only exactly what you want. Apparently within Google the marketers have wrested control from the techies, falling into the "more search results must be better" trap.

    • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Friday February 08, 2013 @02:08PM (#42834763) Homepage

      ...the end is definitely fucking neigh for google

      Why? Is someone giving Sergei a pony?

  • What would happen if I opened an email account with gmail, and sent all ads to an outlook.com account, and viceversa... Would they reach equilibrium, or would the chaos ensue?

  • Why doesn't google just come back saying Hotmail, because you love hackers stealing your account!
  • And Hotmail doesn't? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:16PM (#42833111) Homepage

    Are we meant to believe Bing isn't crawling Hotmail?

  • Anyone who believes Google hired enough people to read the millions of email it handles per day deserves Microsoft.
  • If you want to keep something secret, don't write it down, and best of all, don't email it to someone. Nothing is private on the internet, and if you don't treat the internet like that, then you have only yourself to blame.

    If you think otherwise, then you are a fool.

  • http://tech.slashdot.org/story/13/02/08/1516238/ms-targets-google-with-another-smear-campaign [slashdot.org]

    Its surprising that we have now entered a world were scum like this get hired instead or competing on innovation and quality. How much further can Microsoft Sink.

  • Well with the combined power of the Echelon partnership rummaging through all my communications, what's a little Google added for flavour?
  • by kimvette (919543) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:36PM (#42833411) Homepage Journal

    Hmm, hotmail offers spam filtering and also targeted ads. How does Microsoft do that if they aren't "reading" emails the same way Gmail does?

  • Pot Meet Kettle (Score:5, Informative)

    by joelsherrill (132624) on Friday February 08, 2013 @12:39PM (#42833467) Homepage

    Has anyone looked at the Privacy link at the bottom of the login screen for outlook.com?

    http://privacy.microsoft.com/en-us/default.mspx [microsoft.com]

    Quoting here: "Uses of Information: Additional Details
      We use the information we collect to provide the services you request. Our services may include the display of personalized content and advertising.
      We use your information to inform you of other products or services offered by Microsoft and its affiliates, and to send you relevant survey invitations related to Microsoft services.
      We do not sell, rent, or lease our customer lists to third parties. In order to help provide our services, we occasionally provide information to other companies that work on our behalf."

    So they can personalize content and advertising, send you offers, and provide it to other companies.

    s/Google Mail/outlook.com/ and the claims appear to be the same.

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Friday February 08, 2013 @01:24PM (#42834125)

    Microsoft is experiencing the first stages of a death spiral now that their entry into mobile and tablet markets is a dismal failure and they have done nothing to boost PC enthusiasm. All Microsoft can rely on know is their services, however Bing is now in 5th place for search engines. Hotmail is largely used by people that wanted a second email for stuff they know will spam them, and just converting it to Outlook doesn't make it any less likely people will use it for their primary email.

    I really don't care what Google does with a collection of keywords collected in my email. Nobody at Google is personally reading my email, and even so, what of it? Had there been even one single case of a Google employee abusing the information gained from scanning emails to relate to advertising then I could fully back Microsoft's campaign, but its just not the case.

    Personally all Microsoft is going to have for customers is a bunch of conspiracy theory nuts and people significant paranoia issues. If this is the kind of user base you want to cultivate by this kind of smear campaign, go right ahead, but I doubt it will save Microsoft in the long run.

    The only thing Google should do about this is ignore it. I would rather have a user base of smart rational individuals any day, so let Microsoft bleed the crazies away from Google.

  • by Tool Man (9826) on Friday February 08, 2013 @03:18PM (#42835739)

    Personally, I briefly held a Hotmail address. While I hadn't been using it, my non-obvious, hard to guess address still received a significant amount of spam. It's pretty much a smoking gun that they're sharing things they shouldn't, whether they do something similar with content or not.

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